The first draft for Reggie McKenzie in Oakland, he didn’t have a first round pick. That had been traded away the previous year as part of the deal to bring Carson Palmer to Oakland. McKenzie would have to wait until his second year to get a crack at the first round in what was considered a pretty weak class.
After a 4-12 season, the Raiders were sitting with the third overall pick and no second round pick; also part of the Carson Palmer trade. So, what they did was trade with Dolphins to move out of the number three spot to move down to 12 overall and pick up Miami’s pick in the second round.
The Raiders were after more draft picks in order to help with their rebuild which they didn’t get in the previous draft being that their first pick was a third round compensatory selection. They used those top two picks in the 2013 draft to select cornerback DJ Hayden and offensive tackle Menelik Watson — neither of whom are still with the team.
What the Dolphins were after was Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan.
So, Jordan not only came to Miami as a third overall pick, but as a player who cost the Dolphins their second round pick to get.
Then he flopped.
Alcohol and drug problems derailed his NFL career. He missed six games his second season for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy and another violation had him suspended the entire 2015 season.
Jordan was lost. This former highly regarded pass rushing prospect was given up for dead by the Dolphins and the NFL at the age of 25.
Jordan’s agent, Doug Hendrickson — the agent for Raiders running back and Oakland native Marshawn Lynch — was worried. As Sports Illustrated wrote last December, Hendrickson walked Jordan into the empower gym in San Francisco to seek help.
Hendrickson didn’t know what to do, so he did the only thing that came to mind. He walked Jordan across the street in downtown San Francisco, then pushed open the doors at Empower, the gym run by Tareq Azim, a trainer who’s more like a life coach. “Dion needs you,” Hendrickson said.
Azim did a double take. He couldn’t believe that was Dion Jordan, the Oregon star who was drafted by the Dolphins third overall in 2013. Azim recalled Jordan as a “freak” and a “badass.” He says, “I was blown away. I could have knocked him over. He looked that frail and just not healthy.”
Azim started training NFL players back in 2008. His first clients? Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye. That led to a friendship with then Raiders Offensive line coach, Tom Cable.
A few years later, while Cable was the Oline coach in Seattle, he called up Azim.
“We’ve got this guy, if we can get him to unleash his potential, he’ll probably be one of the best things to happen to the NFL,” Cable said.
“Who is it?” Azim asked.
“His name is Marshawn,” Cable responded.
That was, of course, Marshawn Lynch. From there Lynch went to four straight Pro Bowls, helping the Seahawks to two Super Bowls, winning one.
Back to Jordan.
After his reinstatement, he suffered a knee injury that had him out all of the 2016 season as well. And with time on his hands, he fell back into drinking. So, remembering Tom Cable’s son, Alex, had also struggled with drug and alcohol problems, Azim gave Tom a call to seek his advice.
This ultimately led to Jordan moving to San Francisco to live with Alex to help keep him on track. A short time later the Dolphins released Jordan. Several teams contacted his agent inquiring about signing him, but Jordan wanted to sign with a team in the West to be close to his family.
Then it was Marshawn Lynch who gave the final piece of advice, telling Jordan that with Cable in Seattle, that was his best option. So, that’s where he signed.
Due to rehab from two knee surgeries, Jordan wouldn’t actually suit up for the Seahawks until November 9th — his first NFL game in just under three years.
In his first game, he had a sack. He played a total of five games to finish out last season and had a sack in four of them. That’s how you make a return to the NFL.
Now he’s set to hit free agency. The man who was his reason for signing on in Seattle is now in Oakland (Tom Cable) as is the man who suggested he join Cable in Seattle (Marshawn Lynch) with whom he shares an agent (Doug Hendrickson) and the man (Tareq Azim) who “saved his life” right across the bay and not far from his family in Arizona.
In addition, Jordan would like to show the NFL that their standard way of handling those with substance abuse problems only makes matters worse. Such is the case with Raiders currently banned pass rusher, Aldon Smith.
The NFL abandons those players who are in most need of assistance and support and banishes them which can only lead to further cause them to harm themselves.
Jordan is a rare case of a player who was able to get the support he needed to turn his life around outside NFL circles. And now he’s back, just 27 years of age on a three-game sack streak and looking for a place to take his talents. I see no better place than Oakland.